2 April 2021

A Peculiar Sentiment Towards the Sun

Walter Thornbury, The Life of J. M. W. Turner  (London: Chatto & Windus, 1897), p. 360:

I am told that up to the period of his very last illness he would often rise at daybreak and with blanket or dressing-gown carelessly thrown over him go out upon the railed-in roof to see the sun rise and to observe the colour flow, flushing back into the pale morning sky. In this tenacity of the dying man to his old love there is to me something very touching, almost sublime. Him Nature could never weary. With the true humility of genius he felt how much he had to learn, and how inimitable was the beauty of the world he had tried to depict.

He died with the winter-morning sun shining upon his face as he lay in bed. The attendant drew up the window-blind, and the luminary shed its beams upon the dying artist — the sun he had been wont to regard with such love and veneration.


John Ruskin, "Letter XLV," Fors Clavigera (New York: Kelmscott Society, 1900), p. 122:

“The Sun is God,” said Turner, a few weeks before he died with the setting rays of it on his face. He meant it, as Zoroaster meant it; and was a Sun-worshipper of the old breed.”


Robert Chignell, J. M. W. Turner (London: The Walter Scott Publishing Co., 1902), p. 57:

Whether it be called reverence, worship, or merely an intense delight in, and feeling for, manifestations of light and colour, it is certain that Turner had a peculiar sentiment towards the sun, shared by no other of his time. If not a god to be worshipped in a religious sense, the sun was to him the one great force and influence in the universe.
J. M. W. Turner, The Blue Rigi, Sunrise (1842)